Comeback Town: Birmingham’s best restaurant ever

Kelsey W. Popham


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Birmingham’s a good spot for foodies.

We have wonderful restaurants…like Highland Bar & Grill, El Barrio, Automatic Seafood, and Helen.

There have been other wonderful places to eat earlier or present, but in my coronary heart and stomach, none assess to an American Chinese Cafe that opened in 1919 and operated correctly generally in downtown Birmingham for about 70 a long time.

The identify of the cafe was Pleasure Youthful and I ate hundreds of meals there in my youth and young adult years.

In accordance to BhamWiki, “In October 1925 the cafe moved to 412 20th Avenue North opposite the Tutwiler Resort, shortly growing into the former store future door. The operator Mansion Joe, and manager Henry Loo, experienced attained reputations as helpful, generous businessmen, sometimes supporting provide meals to the needy. That status served them well as the Ku Klux Klan uncovered no assistance from the public in attempts to drive the restaurant out of enterprise.”

When I was developing up in the ‘50′s, our household typically ate at Joy Youthful on Sundays and exclusive occasions. Absolutely when out-of-city family members arrived to city, we gathered there.

It uniquely highlighted the two American and Chinese food stuff. And even although I liked Chinese, I usually ordered the 1/2 fried hen food. To this day, it is the very best fried hen I at any time tasted. I requested my evening meal with a shrimp cocktail, fries, English peas, yeast rolls, and a slice of scrumptious caramel pie for dessert. Believe it or not, the shrimp and pie were bundled in the price. Quite a few clients liked their selfmade almond cookies.

My family members lived on the Southside of Birmingham and when I was aged sufficient to journey the bus by myself, I took the #12 Highland Avenue bus downtown to meet up with my good friends. We would go to Joy Young for lunch and then to a motion picture at the Alabama, Ritz, Melba, or Empire Theater.

One summer a near pal invited an out-of-city visitor to lunch with us at Joy Younger. We often walked the stairs to the balcony since the booths on the balcony experienced curtains which gave us some privateness. The waiter instantly placed a plate of massive fluffy yeast rolls on the table. The visitor had never ever been to an American Chinese cafe and didn’t fully grasp the dynamics. There was normally a big bowl of very hot mustard on the table readily available for the Chinese foods. My good friend instructed his guest that the very hot mustard was a particular scrumptious butter. The unsuspecting customer grabbed a heat roll, slathered the hot mustard above it and took a major chunk. I can continue to listen to his scream.

Whilst in high university I labored downtown on the weekends at my dad’s organization. We would usually go to lunch with each other. He usually preferred to take in at Morrison’s Cafeteria or John’s Restaurant. When I went to lunch with my mother, she usually selected Britling Cafeteria. But occasionally I was in a position to encourage one particular of them to consume at Pleasure Youthful.

In later on several years when my wife and I had little children, we would generally go to Joy Younger and try to eat on the balcony in one particular of the private booths. Just one time our young ones snuck out of the booth and commenced dropping food stuff on the diners beneath. We didn’t know if we would be permitted back or not.

On the rare celebration when I chose to eat Chinese as an alternative of fried hen, I ordered an egg roll and the ‘Mandarin Special’—chicken chow mein, egg foo youthful, and rice. I can not recall how considerably I paid for the egg roll, but the Mandarin Exclusive at that time was 89 cents.

According to BhamWiki, “Joy Younger shut its downtown area in the mid 1980′s. 3rd-technology proprietor Henry Joe reopened in the Brookwood Gallery, a retail strip on the floor flooring of the Brookwood Healthcare Center parking deck in which it operated for several much more yrs. Joy Young ended its daily life as a get-out egg roll store in Pelham.”

Currently when I crave a Joy Youthful-sort egg roll and the ‘Mandarin Specific,’ I decide up at Chop Suey Inn on Inexperienced Springs Avenue in Homewood. The egg rolls are quite equivalent to the Joy Young’s of my youth and what at the time was the Pleasure Younger ‘Mandarin Special’ is stated on the Chop Suey Inn menu as ‘Special Meal Any Time.’

David Sher is the founder and publisher of ComebackTown. He’s earlier Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham), and the City Motion Partnership (CAP).

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